28. And it came to pass about an eight days after these sayings, he took Peter and John and James, and went up into a mountain to pray.
29. And as he prayed, the fashion of his countenance was altered, and his raiment was white and glistering.
30. And, behold, there talked with him two men, which were Moses and Elias:
31. Who appeared in glory, and spake of his decease which he should accomplish at Jerusalem.
Eusebius: Our Lord, when He made known to His disciples the great mystery of His second coming, that it might not seem that they were to believe in His words only, proceeds to works, manifesting to them, through the eyes of their faith, the image of His kingdom; as it follows, And it came to pass about an eight days after these sayings, he took Peter and John and James, and went up into a mountain to pray.
Damascene: Matthew and Mark indeed say that the transfiguration took place on the sixth day after the promise made to the disciples, but Luke on the eighth. But there is no disagreement in these testimonies, but they who make the number six, taking off a day at each end, that is, the first and the last, the day on which He makes the promise, and that on which He fulfilled it, have reckoned only the intervening ones, but He who makes the number eight, has counted in each of the two days above mentioned. But why were not all called, but only some, to behold the sight? There was only one indeed who was unworthy to see the divinity, namely Judas, according to the word of Isaiah, Let the wicked be taken away, that he should not behold the glory of God (Isa 26:10, LXX). If then he alone had been sent away, he might have, as it were from envy, been provoked to greater wickedness. Henceforward He takes away from the traitor every pretext for his treachery, seeing that He left below the rest of the company of the Apostles. But He took with Him three, that in the mouths of two or three witnesses every word should be established. He took Peter, indeed, because He wished to shew him that the witness he had borne to Him was confirmed by the witness of the Father, and that he was as it were to preside over the whole Church. He took with Him James, who was to be the first of all the disciples to die for Christ; but He took John as the clearest singer of the sacred doctrine, that having seen the glory of the Son, which submits not to time, he might sound forth, In the beginning was the Word (Jn 1:1).
Ambrose: Or, Peter went up, who received the keys of the kingdom of heaven; John, to whom was committed our Lord’s mother; James, who first suffered martyrdom (Acts 12).
Theophylact: Or, He takes these with Him as men who were able to conceal this thing, and reveal it to no one else. But going up into a mountain to pray, He teaches us to pray solitary, and going up, into stooping to earthly things.
Damascene: Servants however pray in one way; our Lord prayed in another. For the prayer of the servant is offered up by the lifting up of the mind to God, but the holy mind of Christ, (who was hypostatically united to God,) prayed, that He might lead us by the hand to the ascent, whereby we mount up in prayer to God, and teach us that He is not opposed to God, but reverences the Father as His beginning; nay, even tempting the tyrant, who sought from Him whether He were God, (which the power of His miracles declared,) He concealed as it were under the bait a hook; that he who had deceived man with the hope of divinity might fitly himself be caught with the clothing of humanity. Prayer is the revelation of Divine glory; as it follows, And as he prayed, the fashion of his countenance was altered.
Cyril: Not as though His body changed its human form, but a certain glistening glory overspread it.
Damascene: Now the devil, seeing His face shining in prayer, recollected Moses, whose facewas glorified. But Moses indeed was arrayed with a glory, which came from without; our Lord, with that which proceeded from the inherent brightness of Divine glory (Ex 34:29. For since in the hypostatical union there is one and the same glory of the Word and the flesh, He is transfigured not as receiving what He was not, but manifesting to His disciples what He was. Hence, according to Matthew, it is said, that He was transfigured before them, and that His face shone as the sun (Matt 17:2); for what the sun is in things of sense, God is in spiritual things. And as the sun, which is the fountain of light, cannot be easily seen, but its light is perceived from that which reaches the earth; so the countenance of Christ shines more intensely, like the sun, but His raiment is white as snow; as it follows, And his raiment was white and glistering; that is, lighted up by its participation of the divine light. And a little afterwards, But while these things were so, that it might be shewn there was but one Lord of the new and old covenant, and the mouths of heretics might be shut, and men might believe on the resurrection, and He also, who was transfigured, be believed to be the Lord of the living and the dead, Moses and Elias, as servants, stand by their Lord in His glory; hence it follows, And behold there talked with him two men. For it became men, seeing the glory and confidence of their fellow servants, to admire indeed the merciful condescension of the Lord, but to emulate those who had laboured before them, and looking to the pleasantness of future blessings, to be the more strengthened for conflicts. For he who has known the reward of his labours, will the more easily endure them.
Chrysostom: Or else this took place because the multitude said He was Elias or Jeremias, to shew the distinction between our Lord and His servants. And to make it plain that He was not an enemy of God, and transgressor of the law, He shewed these two standing by Him; (for else, Moses the lawgiver, and Elias who was zealous for the glory of God, had not stood by Him,) but also to give testimony to the virtues of the men. For each had ofttimes exposed Himself to death in keeping the divine commands. He wishes also His disciples to imitate them in the government of the people, that they might be indeed meek like Moses, and zealous like Elias. He introduces them also to set forth the glory of His cross, to console Peter and the others who feared His Passion. Hence it follows, And spake of his decease, which he should accomplish at Jerusalem.
Cyril: The mystery, namely, of His Incarnation, also the life-giving Passion accomplished on the sacred cross.
Ambrose: Now in a mystical manner, after the words above said, is exhibited the transfiguration of Christ, since he who hears the words of Christ, and believes, shall see the glory of His resurrection. For, on the eighth day the resurrection took place. Hence also several Psalms are written, ‘for the eighth,’ or perhaps it was that He might make manifest what He had said, that he who for the word of God shall lose his own life, shall save it, seeing that He will make good His promises at the resurrection.
Bede: For as He rose from the dead after the seventh day of the Sabbath, during which He lay in the tomb, we also after the six ages of this world, and the seventh of the rest of souls, which meanwhile is passed in another life, shall rise again as it were in the eighth age.
Ambrose: But Matthew and Mark have related that He took them with Him after six days, of which we may say after 6000 years, (for a thousand years in the Lord’s sight are as one day;) but more than 6000 years are reckoned. We had rather then take the six days symbolically, that in six days the works of the world were completed, that by the time we may understand the works, by the works the world. And so the times of the world being finished, the resurrection to come is declared; or because, He who has ascended above the world, and has passed beyond the moments of this life, is waiting, seated as it were on a high place, for the everlasting fruit of the resurrection.
Bede: Hence He ascends the mountain to pray and be transfigured, to shew that those who expect the fruit of the resurrection, and desire to see the King in His glory, ought to have the dwelling place of their hearts on high, and be ever on their knees in prayer.
Ambrose: I should think that in the three who are taken up into the mountain, was contained in a mystery the human race, because from the three sons of Noah sprung the whole race of man; I did not perceive that they were chosen out. Three then are chosen to ascend the mountain, because none can see the glory of the resurrection, but they who have preserved the mystery of the Trinity with inviolable purity of faith.
Bede: Now the transfigured Saviour shews the glory of His own coming, or our resurrection; who as He then appeared to His Apostles shall in like manner appear to all the elect. But the raiment of the Lord is taken for the band of His Saints, which in truth when our Lord was upon earth seemed to be despised, but when He sought the mount, shines with a new whiteness; for now are we the sons of God; and it does not yet appear what we shall be. But we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him (1 Jn 3:2).
Ambrose: Or else, according to your capacity is the word either lessened or increased to you, and unless you ascend the summit of a higher wisdom, you behold not what glory there is in the word of God. Now the garments of the Word, are the discourses of the Scriptures, and certain clothings of the Divine mind; and as His raiment shone white, so in the eyes of your understanding, the sense of the divine words becomes clear. Hence after Moses, Elias; that is, the Law and the Prophets in the Word. For neither can the Law exist without the Word, nor the Prophet, unless he prophesied of the Son of God. Because my copy of Aquinas’ Catena was damaged at the point where verses 28-31 were dealt with I used this site as a source.
32. But Peter and they that were with him were heavy with sleep: and when they were awake, they saw his glory, and the two men that stood with him.
33. And it came to pass, as they departed from him, Peter said to Jesus, Master, it is good for us to be here: and let us make three tabernacles; one for you, and one for Moses, and one for Elias: not knowing what he said.
34. While he thus spoke, there came a cloud, and overshadowed them: and they feared as they entered into the cloud.
35. And there came a voice out of the cloud, saying This is my beloved Son: hear him.
36. And when the voice was past, Jesus was found alone. And they kept it close, and told no man in those days any of those things which they had seen.
THEOPHYLACT: While Christ is engaged in prayer, Peter is heavy with sleep, for he was weak, and did what was natural to man; as it is said, But Peter and they that were with him were heavy with sleep. But when they awake, they behold His glory, and the two men with Him; as it follows, And when they were awake, they saw his glory, and the two men that stood with him.
CHRYSOSTOM: Or, by the word sleep, he means that strange maze that fell upon them by reason of the vision. For it was not night time, but the exceeding brightness of the light weighed down their weak eyes.
AMBROSE: For the incomprehensible brightness of the Divine nature oppresses our bodily senses. For if the sight of the body is unable to contain the sun’s ray when opposite to the eyes which behold it, how can the corruption of our fleshly members endure the glory of God? And perhaps they were oppressed with sleep, that after their rest they might behold the sight of the resurrection. Therefore when they were awake they saw His glory. For no one, except he is watching, sees the glory of Christ. Peter was delighted, and as the allurements of this world enticed him not, was carried away by the glory of the resurrection. Hence it follows, And it came to pass as they departed, &c.
CYRIL: For perhaps holy Peter imagined that the kingdom of heaven was at hand, and therefore it seemed good to him to abide on the mount.
DAMASCENE: It were not good for you, Peter, that Christ should abide there, for if He had remained, the promise made to you would never receive its accomplishment. For neither would you have obtained the keys of the kingdom, nor the tyranny of death been abolished. Seek not bliss before its time, as Adam did to be made a God. The time shall come when you shall enjoy the sight without ceasing, and dwell together with Him who is light and life.
AMBROSE: But Peter distinguished not only by earnest feeling, but also by devout deeds, wishing like a zealous workman to build three tabernacles, offers the service of their united labor; for it follows, let us make three tabernacles, one for you, &c.
DAMASSCENE: But the Lord ordained you not the builder of tabernacles, but of the universal Church. Your words have been brought to pass by your disciples, by your sheep, in building a tabernacle, not only for Christ, but also for His servants. But Peter said not this deliberately, but through the inspiration of the Spirit revealing things to come, as it follows, not knowing what he said.
CYRIL: He knew not what he said, for neither was the time come for the end of the world, or for the Saints’ enjoyment of their promised hope. And when the dispensation was now commencing, how was it fitting that Christ should abandon His love of the world, Who was willing to suffer for it?
DAMASCENE: It behoved Him also not to confine the fruit of His incarnation to the service of those only who were on the mount, but to extend it to all believers, which was to be accomplished by His cross and passion.
TIT. BOST: Peter also was ignorant what he said, seeing that it was not proper to make three tabernacles for the three. For the servants are not received with their Lord, the creature is not placed beside the Creator.
AMBROSE: Nor does the condition of man in this corruptible body allow of making a tabernacle to God, whether in the soul or in the body, or in any other place; and although he knew not what he said, yet a service was offered which not by any deliberate forwardness, but its premature devotion, receives in abundance the fruits of piety. For his ignorance was part of his condition, his offer of devotion.
CHRYSOSTOM: Or else Peter heard that it was necessary Christ must die, and on the third day rise again, but he saw around him a very remote and solitary place; he supposed therefore that the place had some great protection. For this reason he said, It is good for us to be here. Moses a too was present, who entered into the cloud. Elias, who on the mount brought down fire from heaven. The Evangelist then, to indicate the confusion of mind in which he utters this, added, Not knowing what he said.
AUGUSTINE: Now in what Luke here says of Moses and Elias, And it came to pass as they departed from him, Peter said to Jesus, Master, it is good for us to be here, he must not be thought contrary to Matthew and Mark, who have so connected Peter’s suggestion of this, as if Moses and Elias were still speaking with our Lord. For they did not expressly state that Peter said it then, but rather were silent about what Luke added, that as they departed, Peter suggested this to our Lord.
THEOPHYLACT: But while Peter spoke, our Lord builds a tabernacle not made with hands, and enters into it with the Prophets. Hence it is added, While he thus spoke there came a cloud and overshadowed them, to show that He was not inferior to the Father. For as in the Old Testament it was said, the Lord dwelt in the cloud, so now also a cloud received our Lord, not a dark cloud, but bright and shining.
BASIL: For the obscurity of the Law had passed away; for as smoke is caused by the fire, so the cloud by light; but because a cloud is the sign of calmness, the rest of the future state is signified by the covering of a cloud.
AMBROSE: For it is the overshadowing of the divine Spirit which does not darken, but reveals secret things to the hearts of men.
ORIGEN: Now His disciples being unable to bear this, fell down, humbled under the mighty hand of God, greatly tom afraid since they knew what was said to Moses, No man shall see my face, and live. Hence it follows, And they feared as they entered into the cloud.
AMBROSE: Now observe, that the cloud was not black from the darkness of condensed air, and such as to overcast the sky with a horrible gloom, but a shining cloud, from which we were not moistened with rain, but as the voice of Almighty God came forth the dew of faith was shed upon the hearts of men. For it follows, And there came a voice out of the cloud, saying, This is my beloved Son: hear you him. Elias was not His Son. Moses was not. But this is the Son whom you see alone.
CYRIL: How then should men suppose Him who is really the Son to be made or created, when God the Father thundered c. from above, This is my beloved Son! as if He said, Not one of My sons, but He who is truly and by nature My Son, according to whose example the others are adopted. He ordered them then to obey Him, when He added, Hear you him. And to obey Him more than Moses and Elias, for Christ is the end of the Law and the Prophets. Hence the Evangelist adds significantly, And when the voice was past, Jesus was found alone.
THEOPHYLACT: Lest in truth any one should suppose that these words, This is my beloved Son, were uttered about Moses or Elias.
AMBROSE: They then departed, when our Lord’s manifestation had begun. There are three seen at the beginning, one at the end; for faith being made perfect, they are one. Therefore are they also received into the body of Christ, because we also shall be one in Christ Jesus; or perhaps, because the Law and the Prophets came out from the Word.
THEOPHYLACT: Now those things which began from the Word, end in the Word. For by this he implies that up to a certain time the Law and the Prophets appear, as here Moses and Elias; but afterwards, at their departure, Jesus is alone. For now abides the Gospel, legal things having passed away.
THEOPHYLACT: And mark, that as when our Lord was baptized in Jordan, so also when He was glorified on the Mount, the mystery of the whole Trinity is declared, for His glory which we confess at baptism, we shall see at the resurrection. Nor in vain does the Holy Spirit appear here in the cloud, there in the form of a dove, seeing that he who now preserves with a simple heart the faith which he receives, shall then in the light of open vision look upon those things which he believed.
ORIGEN: Now Jesus wishes not those things which relate to His glory to be spoken of before His passion. Hence it follows, And they kept it close. For men would have been offended, especially the multitude, if they saw Him crucified Who had been so glorified.
DAMASCENE: This also our Lord commands, since He knew His disciples to be imperfect, seeing that they had not yet received the full measure of the Spirit, lest the hearts of others who had not seen should be prostrated by sorrow, and lest the traitor should be stirred up to a frantic hatred.